David Stone
Foundation work in progress for RI Welcome Monument
Foundation work in progress for RI Welcome Monument
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

As a hot sun dodged clouds saturated enough to threaten a drenching, workers contracted by Hudson broke ground for the foundation of the RI Welcome Monument. You will soon have your first extended chance to live with it and see how it feels in real time.

The RI Welcome Monument, which debuted briefly as a prototype last September, is a key element in a project to make Roosevelt Island more accessible for visitors. It's seen as a whimsical greeting that promises to be the stage for photo ops that fill Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with cheerful impressions of landing here.

It's Coming, Ready or Not: The RI Welcome Monument

That's how Hudson and RIOC, the partnership of State and business implenting the idea, see it.

Although exposure to the installation has been limited to just a few hours, leaving most of us familiar with it only from photographs, early judgments varied widely.

Some agree with Frank Farance that it's "uglier than ugly," but former RIOC Board Member, Margie Smith, a confirmed art lover, thinks it's great, as does RIOC President Susan Rosenthal, another art fan.

And Public Information Officer Alonza Robertson, planted on site during frigid weather in his first month on the job, reported that tourists were posing for spontaneous photo ops when the prototype paid a second visit earlier this year.

Here at The Daily, we find it hard to be impressed by eight-foot tall Helvetica fonts, colored Roosevelt Island red, that have no distinguishing features. To us, it seems like a high school contest might've generated more exciting results.

Prototype placement last September inspired a variety of reactions, from love to disgust.
Prototype placement last September inspired a variety of reactions, from love to disgust.
Photo courtesy of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society

In the end, its simplicity, like Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture on 6th Avenue, may be its lasting charm.

Surprised there's any controversy at all, Hudson Partner David Kramer, who oversaw development, was so confident of the Monument's ability to win over naysayers, he pledged to have it moved elsewhere if it fails to impress after its intended permanent placement.

I asked the guys sweating out the dig how long it would be before Roosevelt Islanders get to swarm the RI Welcome Monument with an inevitable flood of opinions.

"Two weeks," I was told, allowing for a concrete foundation to be poured and set.

The clouds overhead and more to come suggest possible delays as the larger project, including multiple information kiosks set up at key locations, has already been set back a month by rains.

Once the new landscape feature is firmly in place in the Roosevelt Island Tram Plaza, we'll ask you for your opinion in a survey the results of which we'll share.

All prior assumptions aside, no judgments are really fair until we get to live, day by day, with it for a while. 

Will familiarity breed contempt... or fans?